African American Scientists during the Manhattan Project

Dr. William Jacob Knox Jr.
Dr. William Jacob Knox Jr.

Harvard University Archives.

Dr. William Jacob Knox Jr.

  • Dr. Knox attended Harvard University as an undergraduate earning his B.A. in chemistry in 1925.
  • From 1925-1928 Dr. Knox taught at Johnson C. Smith College in North Carolina.
  • He earned his Masters and Ph.D. at MIT, in 1929, and 1935.
  • After earning his Ph.D. he taught at North Carolina Agricultural and Technical College and became the Head of the Department of Chemistry at Talladega College in Talladega, Alabama.
  • Dr. Knox was a research associate and section leader for the corrosion section of Columbia University's nuclear research team.
  • Dr. Knox was the only African American supervisor in the Manhattan Project.
  • Dr. Knox went on to work for Eastman Kodak after the war, where he received 21 patents in 25 years.
  • Dr. Knox was a civil rights activist for housing equality in Rochester, New York until the 1960s.
Dr. J. Ernest Wilkins JR.
Dr. Wilkins 1944 Yearbook photo

Photo Courtesy of Tuskegee Institute.

Dr. J. Ernest Wilkins JR.

  • Dr. Wilkins entered the University of Chicago in 1936, at the age of 13 graduating with his A.B. in mathematics. He continued to study at Chicago until earning his Ph.D. in 1942, at the age of 19.
  • After teaching for a short time at the Tuskegee Institute he returned to the University of Chicago to work on the Manhattan Project in the Metallurgical Laboratory in 1944, until 1946.
  • In 1970, he was appointed to Howard University as Distinguished Professor of Applied Mathematical Physics.
  • Dr. Wilkins received many awards for his work among them was the Outstanding Civilian Service Medal by the US Army, in 1980.

Dr. Samuel Proctor Massie
Dr. Samuel Proctor Massie

Photo Courtesy of North Little Rock History Commission

Dr. Samuel Proctor Massie

  • Dr. Massie graduated with a BS in chemistry from University of Arkansas, in 1937.
  • He earned a MS in chemistry at Fisk University in Nashville, TN, in 1940.
  • Dr. Massie was assigned to the Manhattan Project research team in 1942, at the University of Iowa, until 1946.
  • While earning his Ph.D. in Organic chemistry Dr. Massie preformed research at Iowa State University in the development of uranium isotopes from 1942-1946.
  • In 1966, Dr. Massie became the first African American faculty member at the US Naval Academy Annapolis Maryland.
Dr. Moddie Daniel Taylor
Dr. Moddie Daniel Taylor

Smithsonian Institution Archives

Dr. Moddie Daniel Taylor

  • Dr. Taylor graduated as valedictorian in 1935, with a degree in chemistry from Lincoln University in Jefferson City, Missouri.
  • He taught at Lincoln University, until enrolling in the University of Chicago in 1939, earning his M.S. in chemistry.
  • In 1943, Dr. Taylor earned his Ph.D. from the University of Chicago.
  • Dr. Taylor worked as an associate chemist for the Manhattan Project in 1945, at the University of Chicago.
  • Dr. Taylor was a text book author of First Principles of Chemistry, a widely used textbook.
  • In 1972, Dr. Taylor received a Certificate of merit from Secretary of War Robert P. Patterson for his contributions to the Manhattan Project.

Last updated: April 3, 2017

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